I've seen my share of offensive television, and I'm not easily flustered. A little kid dressed up like Hitler doing street interviews on Wonder Showzen? Hilarious. Actually, every episode of Wonder Showzen gleefully leaps over the line of good taste, and I happily go along.
But Wonder Showzen isn't The Most Offensive Show On Television. Neither is the long-past-its-prime South Park. Family Guy? Please. No, I've decided the title of The Most Offensive Show On Television goes to…drum roll, please…MTV's My Super Sweet 16. There may be no better contraceptive than that show, as its pampered, materialistic brats are enough to make anyone reconsider procreation.
For the uninitiated, here's how MTV describes the show:
My Super Sweet 16 takes you on a wild ride behind the scenes for all the drama, surprises and over-the-top fun as teens prepare for their most important coming-of-age celebrations. Meet the kids who are determined to go all out to mark this major turning point in their lives, the parents who lavish every wish, and find out first hand what it's really like to turn 16 these days.
So apparently, what turning 16 is "really like" entails a grotesque, seemingly soulless teenager who coerces his/her spineless parents into paying for parties that cost many times more than most people's weddings. It's just as I remembered!
The first episode I saw profiled Marissa, whose father owns three car dealerships in Arizona. (Anyone see the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Frat Aliens"? "My dad owns a dealership!") The theme was pink, so everything had to be pink: the three different dresses she wore, her poodles, etc. It occurred at some kind of restaurant/club, which cost $50,000 to rent. When her father tried to negotiate with the owner by offering $25,000, Marissa chided him, saying, "Daddy, 50 thousand is fine."
Marissa created an exclusive guest list and announced it at school. If you weren't on the list, well, sorry. When a few kids begged to get an invitation, she made them have a "dance-off" in front of her. Watching her get off on that was like watching the Emperor zap Luke Skywalker with those fingertip lightning bolts in Return Of The Jedi.
Marissa wanted a sports car for her birthday, but her dad wanted her to drive something "safer," so she grudgingly accepted an SUV. But the night of her party, she had a surprise. Her dad made an announcement that he thought she might want something to drive "on the weekends," so he gave her some Mitsubishi convertible sports car that's not even on the market yet. So she got two cars for her 16th birthday. He also paid R&B; crooner Frankie J. to perform. Total cost for the party? About $150,000.
That's not even the most expensive. On another episode, with an even more objectionable girl named Amanda (whose dad owned a bunch of night clubs in Florida), the party cost $203,000. Quoth daddy: "This is nothing compared to what her wedding's going to be like." I'd feel sorry for the groom, but he'll probably just be the male version of her.
A woman I know just finished working on an episode in Chicago that's going to feature Kanye West. He's apparently done one of these before, and when the party girl found out, she threw a tantrum. She wanted to be the only one to have West. That's a recurring them on the show: Kids want to be the only ones to have had a performer, or party of this magnitude, or theme, etc., and they all want people's envy.
"Everybody wants to be me," they inevitably say.
My Super Sweet 16 is the worst-yet-best kind of reality television. It finds subjects who only inspire contempt, then provides them free reign to prove many times over what terrible people they are. It makes the worst parts of high school–with massively insecure kids desperately trying to fit in or prove themselves–into this spectacle that revels in the most materialistic type of consumerism.
Reality television specializes in exploiting the worst aspects of American society, and My Super Sweet 16 has taken it to a new high/low. It really is something to behold, and it feels like an expression of MTV's contempt for its viewers: "Here you go, you little monsters. Don't you wish you were these privileged brats?"
If you've seen the show, what do you think? Or if you have another nomination for The Most Offensive Show On Television, let's hear it.